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Jim Brickman at the Magic Kingdom: The Disney Songbook DVD Review

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Concert & DVD Details

Director: Jim Yukich

Performer: Jim Brickman / Guest Performers: Michael Bolton, Wayne Brady, Linda Eder, Lila McCann, Anne Cochran, Tracy Silverman

Running Time: 86 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated / Original Airdate: November 26, 2005

1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: None
Studio: Walt Disney Records
Release Date: February 7, 2006
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $18.98
White Keepcase


Review by Aaron Wallace

Jim Brickman is one of contemporary music's most successful pianists. The romantic, pop-oriented compositions and high-profile collaborations that are his trademarks have boasted achievement in adult contemporary radio formats. He's also a life-long Disney fan, so as he told me when I chatted with him last year, he leapt at the chance to record his own interpretations of classic Disney songs for a new album. That was The Disney Songbook, a new Brickman release commissioned by Walt Disney Records to tie-in with the release of October 2005's Cinderella: Platinum Edition DVD.

He's also known for his regular contributions to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Following the release of The Disney Songbook, PBS aired a concert special from inside the Walt Disney World Resort. Four months after the album's release, Walt Disney Records published that concert on a DVD entitled Jim Brickman at the Magic Kingdom: The Disney Songbook.

With his piano perched on a stage at the front of Main Street, USA and a view of Cinderella's Castle directly behind him, Brickman entertains a modest crowd, which has been given exclusive late-night entry beyond normal operating hours. The musician kicks things off with a pretty, instrumental adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" and maintains that same feel for "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and "Mary Poppins Medley," perhaps the best arrangement on his album.

Jim Brickman welcomes you to an evening of music in front of Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It's purely coincidental that brand name Yamaha is prominently featured on the side of Mr. Brickman's piano.

Of course no matter how talented a performer is, watching someone sit behind a piano for over an hour would probably grow tiresome. To liven things up, clips from various Disney films and archival footage are projected onto flowing screens behind him or mixed in with the concert footage itself.

Brickman invites a parade of guest stars to come out and provide vocal accompaniment to his playing. Those include pop music superstar Michael Bolton, comedian and singer Wayne Brady, country music performer Lila McCann, long-time Brickman collaborator Anne Cochran, and violinist Tracy Silverman. Cast members from Disney World stage shows Cinderellabration and Festival of the Lion King also appear on stage, though
the former appear with a ghostly transparency that might have worked for "Grim Grinning Ghosts," but doesn't mesh too well with the Brickman-penned, Brady-sung "Beautiful" (a Cinderella-inspired original that has already become one of my favorites). Brickman himself sings occasionally too and does so with more talent than might be expected. Many of the tracks that are entirely instrumental on the album are vocalized on the DVD, which makes for a unique experience that is as stimulating as the album.

The pace picks up with "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," Wayne Brady's version of "Bare Necessities," and the delightfully jazzy "Cruella De Vil." It slows down a little when Brickman pulls out the first of two sets of music from his previous projects. "If You Believe" is dedicated to Walt Disney and ties with "Simple Things" for the best that is provided from Brickman's library. Other selections, such as "Heaven" and "Peace" are less enjoyable or fitting. Michael Bolton comes out for a total of four performances, but only two are Disney songs and sadly neither of those is his pop hit, "Go the Distance" from Hercules. At one point, Anne Cochran tells Jim that she loves Disney music but that the audience would like to hear some of his own stuff too. Instead of pointing out that they had already heard five of those, he charges on, but quickly returns to the reason for the occasion with a medley of "A Whole New World" and "Colors of the Wind."

Ann Cochran wears pink and is complemented by the sight of Cinderella's Castle in back Like the rest of us, Brickman is in awe of his vocal accompaniment here, though a little perplexed by the new look. Is that really Michael Bolton?!

It seems that the Disney fan base is probably the target for this release, but it's clearly produced with Brickman's fans in mind too. At any concert featuring an established performer, hard-core and casual fans clash over a desired set list, so it's not unusual that there be a mix on this release. It is worth pointing out that the middle might lag a bit for those who are unfamiliar with Brickman's music. On the bright side, he never offers more than two in a row and when half of the originals are pretty snazzy and they are book-ended by creative takes on classics like "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," it doesn't become too much of a grievance.

The last third of the concert fully re-embraces Disney music and hits a sour spot only once when Linda Eder does a great disservice to Mulan's "Reflection." Fortunately, she redeems herself with a popular jazz standard: "Almost Like Being in Love." To close out the show, all of the program's guests join Brickman on stage with the same arrangement of "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" that Brickman and Kimberly Locke (who sadly isn't present for this show) have released several times. It's a strong presentation, though Bolton shies away from his usual vocal prowess to offer a more subdued ending in the final notes.

Overall, the concert is nicely constructed and creates a magical ambience that is easy to appreciate. Viewing the concert makes for a cozy evening and fans of either Brickman or Disney should find themselves pleased with the product.

What's better than Wayne Brady singing on a big windy screen? Wayne Brady singing in person, in front of Wayne Brady singing on a big windy screen, of course! Brickman usually doesn't open his mouth during the numbers, but he can't resist the lure of a duet with Lila McCann. Linda Eder performs songs from "Mulan" and "Brigadoon."

SET LIST

1. "Beauty and the Beast"
2. "Some Day My Prince Will Come"
3. "Mary Poppins Medley" (Chim Chim Cher-ee/Feed the Birds/Let's Go Fly a
Kite/Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious)
4. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"
5. "Bare Necessities" (featuring Wayne Brady)
6. "Beautiful" (featuring Wayne Brady)
7. "If You Believe"
8. "Cruella De Vil"
9. "Heaven"
10. "I'm Amazed" (featuring Lila McCann)
11. "When I See an Elephant Fly" (with Lila McCann)
12. "Hear Me" (featuring Michael Bolton)
13. "'Til the End of Forever" (featuring Michael Bolton)
14. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (featuring Tracy Silverman)
15. "Peace" (featuring Anne Cochran and Tracy Silverman)
16. "Simple Things" (featuring Anne Cochran and Tracy Silverman)
17. "A Whole New World/Colors of the Wind Medley"
18. "Reflection" (featuring Linda Eder)
19. "Almost Like Being in Love" (featuring Linda Eder)
20. "When You Wish Upon a Star" (featuring Michael Bolton
21. "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (featuring Michael Bolton, Wayne Brady, Linda Eder, Lila McCann, Ann Cochran, and Tracy Silverman)

The ghost of Cinderella and her prince show up to haunt Wayne Brady during the original tune "Beautiful." Brickman admires the violin work of recurring guest performer Tracy Silverman. When in Disney World, do as the Disney Worldians do... Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King performers get overtime for stage antics complementing Brickman's rendition of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Disney parks look most magical at night and the picturesque Main Street setting and subdued lighting create a nice aesthetic quality. The 1.33:1 transfer certainly looks to be accurate and makes sense, given that this originated as a PBS concert special. Video quality is mostly quite pleasing, with the only real flaw being some noticeable haloing around the performers. The element is clean and the clips from animated classics in particular look very nice (though many of them are presented in cropped form, but that's not too big a deal, given the use they are put to here).

Audio comes by way of a 2.0 stereo track, which conveys the sound adequately and without problem. A 5.1 Surround Sound track would have gone a long way in enhancing the experience, but as it stands, the audio quality is pleasing nonetheless. It appears to have been a windy Orlando evening and that picks up on the microphone from time to time, but given that this is a live outdoors recording, that's more or less unavoidable. It's not too much of a distraction and it even lends a degree of authenticity to it. Likewise, Jim Brickman's interstitials of commentary are sometimes a little heavy on the "b"s and "p"s in the microphone, but they're sparse and outweighed by the DJ-like quality of his voice that gives greater resonance to his introductions.

Cinderella's Prince Charming didn't have many lines, but leave it to Brickman & Brady to vocalize his thoughts. Here, they work together in the music video for "Beautiful." Watch what you say about Jim Brickman, Kassie. He's staring right at you! This still from the animated main menu screen showcases the corresponding album artwork.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and DESIGN

Surprisingly, two bonus features are included, and both are rather enjoyable, though very brief. The first is "Making of The Disney Songbook" (4:28), which is a behind-the-scenes featurette pertaining to the album, not the DVD. It's mostly comprised of interviews with Brickman and his collaborators on the album and it makes for an interesting piece.

The other is a music video to "Beautiful" (3:45), which stars Brickman and even more prominently, its vocalist, Wayne Brady. A classy delivery and some fun clips from Cinderella make this video for one of The Disney Songbook's better songs a treat. That Wayne Brady can sing!

The nicely-animated main menu provides access to the feature and both bonus features from one screen. While the feature is divided into chapters that fall at the beginning of each performance (but don't always capture the introduction to the song like they should), those chapters aren't selectable from any menu. For a concert DVD, that's extremely annoying. Inside the package is a fold-out, six-panel collection that lists liner notes and advertises for The Disney Songbook.

Brickman ponders how best to thank you for reading this review. He decides on fireworks and a performer lineup, in spite of his diminutive stature.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you haven't yet picked up The Disney Songbook CD, go for it first. Once you've allowed some time for appreciating it, you may very well want to move on to this DVD. With a nice visual element and unique spins on the album versions (plus a whole bunch of songs not included there -- a few missteps, but mostly quite good), it makes for a very nice complement to the album. A chapter selection screen would have gone a long way in improving the DVD's functionality, but the inclusion of two cool bonus features can almost make up for that, I suppose. These magical tributes to the Disney legacy make for worthwhile investments.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Jim Brickman: The Disney Songbook (CD)
Disneymania in Concert (DVD) Disneymania 3 in Concert (DVD)
Hercules (DVD) Sing Along Songs: Campout at Walt Disney World (DVD)
Wishes! (CD) The Happiest Celebration on Earth (CD) Sing Along Songs: The Bare Necessities (DVD)
Sing Along Songs: Beach Party at Walt Disney World (DVD) Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun (DVD)
Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition (DVD) Cinderella: Platinum Edition (DVD)

Click to read UltimateDisney.com's interview with Jim Brickman!

Related Page: UD's Interview with Jim Brickman

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Upcoming Disney DVDs | Recently-Released Disney DVDs | Fall 2005 CD Roundup0.

Reviewed February 26, 2006.